Theories on Culture and Cultural Dimensions

An Overview to Theories on Culture and Cultural Dimensions

According to Geert Hofstede, “culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.” What are these theories on culture and cultural dimensions? It is a way of life and controls a group of people’s behaviors, beliefs, values, ways of thinking, feeling, reacting, dressing, eating, greeting, etc.

A cultural dimension is an aspect of a culture that can be measured relative to other cultures.

Culture consists of the values, beliefs, systems of thought, and behaviors that are characteristic of a particular social group or society. Culture is transmitted from one generation to the next and is constantly evolving.Cultural anthropology is the study of human cultures, their origins, evolution, and diversity. Cultural anthropologists seek to understand how people live in different parts of the world and how they interact with their environment. They also strive to explain how cultures change over time.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory:

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory developed by Geert Hofstede, this theory helps to “understand the differences in culture across countries. It helps discern the ways of doing across different cultures” (Corporate Finance Institute, 2020). Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions theory is a framework for understanding how different cultures interact.

The theory is based on four dimensions: power distance, individualism, masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance.

Power distance is the degree to which people in a culture accept unequal distribution of power. Individualism is the degree to which people in a culture emphasize individual achievement over collective goals. Masculinity is the degree to which a culture values competitiveness, assertiveness, and success. Uncertainty avoidance is the degree to which a culture tolerates ambiguity and uncertainty.

The four dimensions are not independent of each other; they are interrelated and interact with each other. For example, cultures with high power distance tend to be more collectivist, while cultures with low power distance tend to be more individualist. Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions theory has been criticized for its Eurocentric perspective and for its reduction of cultures to a set of static variables. However, the theory remains a useful framework for understanding how different cultures interact.

According to Hofstede’s the dimensions of culture include:

  • power distance
  • individualism vs. collectivism
  • masculinity vs. femininity
  • uncertainty avoidance
  • long/short term orientation
  • indulgence/restraint

Other similar theories on culture and cultural dimensions:

One of the most influential theories on culture was developed by German sociologist Max Weber. Weber’s theory emphasizes the importance of religion in shaping cultural values. He argued that a culture’s achievements are determined by its “spirit of capitalism,” which he saw as a product of Protestantism.

Other important theories on culture include those of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and American anthropologist Clifford Geertz. Bourdieu’s theory focuses on the ways in which people’s social backgrounds affect their cultural tastes and preferences. Geertz’s theory emphasizes the role of symbols and rituals in creating meaning within a culture.

Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s Seven Dimensions of Culture:

Management consultants Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner identified the seven dimensions of culture. The model was published in their 1997 book, “Riding the Waves of Culture.”

According to them, what distinguishes people from one culture to another is where their preferences fall in one of the following dimensions: “universalism vs. particularism, individualism vs. collectivism, neutral vs. emotional, specific vs. diffuse, achievement vs. ascription, attitudes to time, and attitudes to the environment” (Cross-Cultural Theories, 2015).

Inglehart’s Dynamic theory of Cultural change:

US sociologist and WVS director Ronald Inglehart theorized that socioeconomic development gives rise to two main cross-cultural dimensions. The traditional vs. secular-rational, and survival vs. self-expression.

An alternative cross-cultural theory, developed by Israeli Psychologist Shalom Schwartz, identifies seven dimensions at the country level: “embeddedness, intellectual autonomy, affective autonomy, hierarchy, mastery, egalitarianism, and harmony”(Zainuddin et al., 2018).

 The GLOBE project

U.S. management scholar Robert House led another large-scale study, Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) The GLOBE project replicates Hofstede’s theory expands his dimensions to nine:  “power distance, uncertainty avoidance, institutional collectivism, in-group collectivism, assertiveness, gender egalitarianism, future orientation, humane orientation, and performance orientation”(Zainuddin et al., 2018).

According to these theories, what distinguishes people from one culture to where their preferences fall and what their community as a whole commonly believe to be true.

Read more about the theories on Culture and Cultural Dimensions via the following sources:

Corporate Finance Institute. (2020, June 1). Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory.

Cross-cultural theories. (2015, October 22). Beyond Cultural Differences.

Zainuddin, M., Yasin, I., Arif, I., & Hamid, A. B. A. (2018, December 1). Alternative Cross-Cultural Theories: Why Still Hofstede? ResearchGate.

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